Ciguatoxins are produced by photosynthetic dinoflagellate Gambierdiscus toxicus. The dinoflagellate normally causes the 'red tide' phenomenon known as an algal bloom.
This neurotoxin is stored in the liver and viscera of fish that have eaten the dinoflagellate and concentrates up the food chain towards progressively larger species, including dog and humans. The prevalence of ciguatera in the South Pacific increases dramatically where average sea surface temperatures are at least 28 to 29°C.
Since the toxin is heat stable, cooking does not destroy the toxin, no matter how well the fish is cooked. Contaminated fish, when consumed, will cause poisoning.
Death usually occurs as a result of respiratory and heart failure.
A prolonged period of acute illness can result, and the neurologic symptoms can last months, with variable asymptomatic and symptomatic periods.
Diagnosis is based on history of fish consumption and exclusion of other causes.
Dog may eventually recover but may require up to a week of hospitalization.
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